|Kylie's First Halloween - 2006: "50's Girl"|
Halloween was never my favorite holiday. I never had a store bought costume and never really desired one. My siblings/friends and I always just threw something together (there were LOTS of cowgirls and cheerleaders roaming my neighborhood). Oh sure, I loved Halloween for the candy I received, but I didn't have any "special" memories.
That is .... until Halloween of 2005.
You see, Halloween of 2005 is when Dan and I were invited to accompany our birth parents to the ultrasound that would declare the gender of our baby. I remember holding my breath waiting to hear (and just praying they would be able to distinguish). After an agonizing eternity, the nurse finally told us that we had a "turtle" (aka: a girl). I cried for joy - I had wanted a little girl so much!!
|Kylie's 2nd Halloween - 2007: "Ladybug"|
Dan and I had previously decided that WE wanted to know the gender of our baby, but we did not want to communicate it to anyone else until the actual birth. It was the hardest secret of our lives!! It nearly killed us not to tell. So, to keep from slipping, we named the baby "Boo". It was so much fun!
From that moment on, any updates we gave to family and friends about our baby or the progressing adoption always included how "Boo" was doing. At the next ultrasound, one of our friends gave us a halloween card and wrote inside "Hope you get a peek-a-boo" (during the ultrasound) - I thought that was sooo clever!!
|Kylie's 3rd Halloween: 2008- "Cowgirl"|
Since that special day, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for Halloween and the memories of meeting our "Baby Boo" for the first time.
While Halloween is now a special day to us - it has the potential to be a very upsetting day for any child who experiences Autism or Special Needs. Our family learned a lot in our first few years of celebrating this holiday and wanted to share with you things that have helped us have a purposeful and successful holiday.
|Kylie's 4th Halloween: 2009- "Princess/Bride"|
Like most holidays, Halloween is a multi-sensory event. There is much stimuli to be processed if you attempt to participate in the activities of the season.
Strategies For A Successful Holiday:
Costumes: Make sure your child WANTS to dress up. Check costumes for comfort level and eliminate any discomforting areas of the costume. Make sure children have clear vision and breathing passages through masks. This seems common sense, but it is amazing to me how many children struggle on Halloween while caregivers are oblivious.
Set your child's expectations: Tell your child what kind (scary, cartoon, etc) of costumes they might see, let them know that they will be safe with you. Let them know it is ok to feel nervous but that you will be right with them. If your child will allow it, hold their hand (especially when crossing driveways and streets). If they won't allow you to hold their hand, I suggest loosely holding the back collar of their shirt (where the tag is).
Route: Make sure to map out your route ahead of time. Choose locations that meet your child's particular needs. In our family, we go to a different neighborhood entirely. If we tried to trick or treat in our neighborhood, our daughter wouldn't understand that it is a once a year event. Each day she would attempt to knock on our neighbors' doors expecting candy.
Diet: Eat a good dinner before starting and be sure to monitor your child's sugar intake. Plan ahead for a way to distract your child (bring along books, a flashlight, glow in the dark toys or spinners and/or etc to keep their hands busy. Give them sugarless gum to chew or offer them a chewy tube). Make sure they stay hydrated.
Schedule/Time: Be sure to watch your child's endurance level. If they are tired, give them permission to take a break or stop altogether. Be sure to attend to your child's restroom/diapering needs.
Weather: Be prepared for inclement or cold weather. Be sure to wear appropriate footwear. Keep an umbrella in your vehicle.
Lighting: Choose a location that is well lit.
Know your child's fears and phobias: Don't choose the holiday to conduct therapy or teach your child a lesson in overcoming their fears.
Help your child be prepared: In the state that I live, it is tradition for children to tell a joke when they knock on someone's house. If your child is verbal, help them to memorize a joke or two to have ready. If your child is nonverbal, you may want to create joke cards to hand to the person who answers the door. Either way, make an effort for your child to be included in the local traditions. EVERY activity can be adapted.
Re-inforce Halloween etiquette: Only knock on doors whose outdoor lights are on, only walk on sidewalks (not on grass), follow the time allowed for trick or treating (do not arrive early or keep going after end time)
|Kylie's 5th Halloween: 2010- "Elmo"|
Strategies For A Purposeful Holiday:
After receiving our daughter's diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (PDD-NOS), we quickly realized that Halloween is a wonderful holiday for helping our daughter to practice the skills she is learning in a very effective, natural and appropriate way.
Manners and Eye Contact: Specifically saying "Thank You" and expressing appreciation for the gift of candy (and the compliments on her costume). Before Kylie can leave a house with her candy, she must thank the person who gave it to her. We prompt her to look at the person and then to say or sign "Thank You" - by the end of the evening, she is almost doing it on her own (very little prompting needed).
Taking Turns: When there is a group of children gathering at a home, we have Kylie wait her turn. This teaches her patience and being kind to our friends.
Greeting one another: When we approach or pass a child on the sidewalk, we prompt Kylie to greet them by saying "Hi Friend".
Boundaries: We allow Kylie a few treats during the evening but we limit them by using the "First/Then" method. It might sound something like this: FIRST Smarties THEN lollypop or FIRST Hershey's kiss, THEN book. It sets the tone for an ending.
Safety: When she was an infant, we taught Kylie a little saying so that she would never "fight" being buckled into a car seat. We said "Buckle up for Safety" and we gradually progressed to "Buckle up..." and Kylie would finish "For Safety". When we are out and about, we require Kylie to hold our hands. We adapt the saying to "Hold hands... For Safety". This is just an accepted part of her routine.
Faith: We use the book The Pumpkin Gospel to put a faith base to the holiday of Halloween. (we love the object lesson of pumpkin carving to teach that God can take away all of the yucky things in us and give us a light to shine for him). Another good book is The Pumpkin Parable
|Another costume for her 5th Halloween - 2010 "Cheerleader"|
Planning ahead and thinking through a situation prior to the event, is critical for success. Always look for opportunities to put into "real world" practice the things your child is learning at therapy and in school. Halloween can be a very intimidating time, but it can also be successful if you put just a bit of thought and preparation into it.
Happy Trick or Treating, and let me know how things go for you!